NEW DELHI: On March 1, two days before the World Health Organization (WHO) spoke of a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), India had no PPE coveralls suitable for Covid-19 in the country. The entire requirement was being met through imports.
A little over a month later, the production capacity has increased to 12,000 a day and is expected to touch 20,000 units per day in a week from now. And, by April 25, the government has estimated that production of PPE will be around 30,000 units a day. At the current pace, around three lakh PPEs will be produced in the country this month, while the requirement is estimated at close to 1.5 crore units.
With WHO warning of a global shortage – estimated at 40% of the global demand on March 3 – getting PPEs was a tough task. While supplies are being augmented via imports, domestic production too has begun picking up with the textiles ministry getting Indian non-woven manufacturers to develop a suitable fabric for PPEs for Covid, in line with health ministry guidelines. As of now, there are 12 fabric manufacturers who have got their prototype samples certified at the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA).
Also read: Covid-19: Imported PPEs arrive: Govt
In addition , there are 25 manufacturers — including Shahi Exports, Aditya Birla Fashions, Gukuldas Exports, JCT Phagwara, Kusumgar Industries — and a few more are expected to join the bandwagon soon, helping step up production in the coming weeks.
Government officials, however, said the demand for PPE may be overstated given that there are elaborate WHO guidelines on how it is to be used. For instance, no PPE is required in case a healthcare worker’s activity is limited to the triage or wards. But those dealing directly with Covid-19 patients need to wear PPE.
Sources said an empowered group of secretaries is keeping close tabs on the production and sourcing of PPEs and masks and the government has already placed orders, which are expected to flow in soon. “China is the largest manufacturer and there is a huge rush from other countries too to get protective gear. But we are trying to ensure that there is no shortage,” said an official.